Has anyone ever asked you what “Son of God” means? I had the opportunity to answer this question last week. As part of an English lesson about Easter, I had less than two minutes to define “Son of God” to about 100 international women.
What a challenge! Ladies learning English as a second or third language from different cultures and religions looked at the Power Point slide with a sketch of the Trinity (I didn’t even use the term) and waited for my response.
I didn’t have time to go into detail or to read many scriptures. With my audience, I also didn’t want to use any other laborious theological terms to define the character of God. But, I also didn’t want to simply say, “It’s Jesus,” and move on.
As an introduction to “Son of God”, I established that we don’t know everything about God, and God is all powerful and can do anything He wants to do. Hands went up across the audience in agreement.
My three goals:
1) Explain that the concept of God as One God, yet three persons comes directly from the Scripture. God wanted us to know about His character and revealed Himself to us.
2) Explain that Jesus as the “Son of God” meant Jesus was God.
3) Explain that Jesus is the “Son of God”, but not a separate god.
I used the definition, “Title given to Jesus to describe his spiritual relationship with God the Father.”
After class, I reflected on my explanation and felt it was adequate. But I really wanted to share more. I challenged myself to define “Son of God” within 5 min. to prepare for the next time I’m asked the question. So here is my attempt.
I would use the same outline as above and just expound by using scriptures to support the statements.
I would first establish that I agree that there is only one God.
Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
Next, I would introduce Jesus. When Jesus came to earth and as God, He wasn’t contradicting Deuteronomy 6:4. He was giving us more understanding of God’s nature. With Jesus, God is not just a “one person” God as previously revealed by the Scripture.
Jesus is identified as “the Word” in John 1:1-5, 14. By adding, “Jesus” for emphasis and clarity, it says, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word (Jesus) was with God, and the Word (Jesus) was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 14 And the Word (Jesus) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
A) Verses one and two say Jesus was with God at the beginning (creation).
B) And, Jesus was God from the beginning. (verse one)
With these two points, I would also emphasize Jesus as the Creator and NOT a created being.
1) Jesus, the Creator, created all things. (vs. 3 above) (See also Colossians 1:16).
2) Jesus was not created, He was eternal. He was “In the beginning” (vs. 1 above)
Then, I would emphasize that Jesus was not called the “Son of God” because of a physical birth or a physical conception.
As we understand biology, by definition, a son must have a father and a mother. However, Jesus wasn’t conceived through physical sex.
John 1:14 (above) says, “And the Word became flesh.” (by the power of God, not through physical, human conception).
Luke 1:30-35 says, The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary ; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High ; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David ; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Mary was still a virgin after Jesus was conceived by the power of Holy Spirit (the third person of the three persons God that Scripture also revealed to us…another lesson for another day).
Matthew 1:23-25 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”
After establishing the first two points, I would explain the term “son” in the cultural context.
To the Jews, the eldest son had equal representation with the father. Traditionally, he also had the distinguished title of: “Main Heir”. So when the Jews heard the title “Son of God” given to Jesus, they understood His claim to equality with God.
Jesus, Himself, claimed to be God using the distinction, “Son of God.” Jesus was doing the Father’s work. He never claimed to be a separate god.
John 10:30-38 “I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father ; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy ; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS ‘? 35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God ‘? 37 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (emphasis mine)
John 5: 17-18 says, “But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
And finally, others claimed He was the Son of God. For the sake of time, I would just choose two from the many examples.
From beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the end of His life, Jesus was called the Son of God.
When John the Baptist introduced Jesus, He called Him, “the Son of God.”
John 1:32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (emphasis mine)
At His Jesus’ death, the centurion called Him the Son of God . Mark 15:39 says, “When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (emphasis mine)
I understand this is not complete, but it may be a good start to explain the “Son of God”. What would you add or take away if you only had five minutes or less to define Jesus as the “Son of God”?
“Anything? Anything!”: the theme for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Women’s Retreat, April 11-12th at Falls Creek Conference Center, Davis OK. If you are a lady anywhere near Oklahoma and haven’t made plans for that weekend, YOU SHOULD GO. And men, stick with me here. The rest of the blog pertains to you, too.
I love the question of the retreat, “Would you trade everything for God’s anything?” Dwelling on this question took me back to a personal blog post I wrote a couple of years ago. It was about a book fair.
And, this week it was Book Fair time again (probably why I made the connection), the time when the elementary school library morphs into a book-selling machine. I had a different role this year. With some unscheduled snow days (always unscheduled, I guess) my day to volunteer landed on set-up day During set up, I confessed of a previous book fair mistake (an honest one, really).
A few years ago, I misinterpreted a book fair policy (immediate termination of volunteer position required. However, no one caught my error in time to fire me face-to-face). You see, there is a reasonable check policy: the book fair will not accept a check written for more than $1 over the sales amount. This prevents them from giving back a wad of cash to an elementary school-aged child (even though many of them have stashes of cash all over them when they walk in the door And, they could bring a totally blank check, with only a signature…even scarier than a wad of cash).
So, I had no problem with the check policy. But I heard, “We cannot give children more than $1 change.” So my cashier policy: I applied the check policy to cash (obviously a huge mistake).
Most children didn’t have a problem with my made-up policy. In fact, the majority of children had a “no change” policy. They wanted as much merchandise they could get for the money they brought (even if that meant they bought 3 or 4 cheap erasers).
After I finished my shift, I realized the absurdity of my policy. My policy sounded unreasonable when a girl brought $20 and only wanted a $5 book.
I called the library to explain my concern. They said not to worry they would make everyone happy if anyone complained.
I’m not sure how many children made it home with bookmarks and pencils to keep my policy. (I’m sure we had record sales). None of them returned with change. They spent everything!
My Book Fair disaster reminded me of another “no change” policy, a giving everything event.
I imagine (not in the Bible) that when Jesus returned to the Father after He died and rose again, His Father asked for “change”. Jesus didn’t have anything to give Him.
Going to earth, living a perfect life and laying His life down on the cross cost Jesus EVERYTHING: His life, well spent.
But Jesus had the most amazing receipt. “Sinful people from all tribes and all nations.”
And the Father smiled.
So, followers of Jesus, Would you trade everything for God’s anything? Jesus did!
And Jesus taught, in Matthew 22:37 “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”
God asks us for EVERYTHING.
ALL of Our hearts. ALL of Our minds.
Our desires. Our dreams. Our plans. Our thoughts.
Our resources. Our talents. Our time. Our ALL!
For who knows better how to “spend” our lives than our owner/creator? (God’s Anything)
Will you pray this faith prayer? (I have to re-pray it frequently)
“God, You know how to spend my life for You and Your kingdom. I give you my everything. I trust You to spend well. I trust in your “Anything”.”
What part of “Everything” are you holding back from God?
I just finished reading Radiant by Marian Jordan (which I would recommend to those who love the Word and a great challenge). I read it on my nine-hour van ride to the mountains of New Mexico with my family.
As I gazed at the mountains in the distance, they looked so insignificant. When we ventured closer, the sun began to shine on the tops of the snow-covered masses, displaying their majesty. Then it donned on me. The radiance from the sun made all the difference. When clouds blocked the sun or the mountains, the mountains were no more than big rocks. But the sunshine caused the mountains to glisten in the distance.
Then I remembered another illustration God whispered to me a few months ago, when ice covered Oklahoma. Just like the snow on the mountains, the ice that blanketed the trees created a breathtaking sight. The brilliant reflection of light from the ice only occurred when the sun shone on the trees. Again, the sun made all the difference. It was then, God whispered, “You are like that tree.” Then I began to ponder.
Believers in Jesus, we were like the dormant, naked trees of winter before we understood Jesus’ forgiveness and accepted His love through faith. When we received God’s covering for us (Jesus’ blood), in the tree illustration, it’s like God covered us with ice (faith). God caused the transformation, a new life in Jesus. A life with a new purpose: to reflect the Son (Jesus) just as the ice reflects the sun. The sun/Son makes all the difference.
Marian Jordan wrote, “The ultimate transformation that occurs in the human heart is when we begin to desire the glory of God. That is the essence of becoming a new creation in Christ…The old person…now new, with new desires to reflect the radiance of Christ, His light, His goodness, His love, His faithfulness to a dark and hurting world.”1
In the iced tree (not tea) illustration, the dead tree doesn’t get any glory. Likewise, in our Jesus-covered lives, we shouldn’t get any glory. In fact, the Bible says in Matt. 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (emphasis added) (NASB).”
Also, the ice can represent trials and growing faith, as well (versus initial faith in Jesus). As we encounter various trials, God allows more “ice on our limbs.” So we have a choice. If we turn to Jesus (sun) during our trial, He uses the test to allow Him to shine through us. The ice melts enough for our limbs to stay strong, and our faith effects others around us (fresh water). However, if we focus on our trial (heavy ice), our limbs of faith can bend and possibly break. Defeated, we are not spiritually useful to those around us. In fact, it may take a while for our branches to grow again (faith). Remember, beauty comes from the ice (trials).
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (NASB).”
And finally, our faith will grow by spending time in the sun (with the Son). Marian Jordan wrote, “Radiance requires exposure to His presence. Real and lasting transformation occurs when we spend time with Him, beholding His glory and in turn reflecting His character.”2
Are you a dead tree or an iced-covered tree?
Are you in a trial you are trying to handle yourself?
Does your life reflect Jesus’ character?
Are you spending more time exposed to the Word or the world?
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” Matt. 5:14.
To read another reflection of mine while driving in the mountains, http://stacyneus.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-mountain.html
1) Marian Jordan, Radiant: Living as Light in a Dark World (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 13.
2) Marian Jordan, Radiant: Living as Light in a Dark World (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 32.
I had another interesting conversation with a Muslim friend this week. When we were discussing different beliefs, she said she heard Christians she knew in college say, “I’ve been saved from all my sins so I can live however I want.”
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this idea from a Muslim friend. I suppose there are some legitimate reasons for their belief that Christians have “cheap grace”. They will explain that Christians just have to believe in Jesus and that’s it. Why would they think this way? Is it true?
1. Reasons based on their culture and religion
a. Culture: In many Muslims’ shame/honor culture, grace (the gift of salvation) never fits. They believe one must be responsible for one’s own actions and must please his or her family. In this mindset, they ask, “How could Jesus die for someone else?” They don’t understand.
Isaiah 53:6, “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.”
b. Compare: As captives to a works-based religion, they believe they can work hard enough to earn salvation, or Heaven. Again, they don’t understand grace. If they compare the requirements between religions, they have a difficult standard and think Christianity is too easy (cheap grace).
Eph. 2:8-9 “ For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.”
2. Reasons based on the Christian culture
a. Communication: They, as my friend did, hear “Christians” make statements about grace without a changed heart. (I placed ‘Christians’ in parenthesis as a question to their authenticity). Are they true believers? Or are they are “Christians” that treat the name of Jesus as a ticket to heaven, not as the holy God who demands complete surrender?
What does the Bible say about this type of “Christian”? Can someone confess to be a follower of Jesus and continue to live as an unbeliever? According to Rom. 6:1-2, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” No!
b. Confusion: On the other hand, they may think (as one Muslim friend did) that Christians also perform good works to earn Heaven. They see Christians doing many good things and assume, they too, must acquire Heaven as a reward for their actions. They don’t understand that the works in a Christian are a result of a changed heart. Christians don’t perform works to earn Heaven, but as evidence to a relationship with Jesus.
Eph. 2:10, “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
Matt. 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
How will they know the truth?
Only if followers of Jesus Love the Truth — Embrace Grace. Know God’s gift of Jesus through His Word, The Bible. Yes, you must only believe in Jesus to receive his gift of forgiveness. However, it doesn’t stop there.
Only if followers of Jesus Live the Truth — Endure. Follow to the end. Obey His Word. Live accountable lives. Remember Romans 14:10b-12, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to ME, And every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”
Only if followers of Jesus Speak the Truth — Engage others in conversation. If we don’t speak the truth, others may never know the truth.
My response to my friend: I felt as if I were Paul writing the sixth chapter of Romans (see above). I opened my Bible and passionately shared the truth in love. I shared how we receive Jesus by grace and the role of good works in a believer’s life (scriptures already mentioned). She said she learned something new about my beliefs.
What would you share with someone who believes Christians have “cheap grace”?
I know a new year brings several emotions from excitement to exhaustion. Many of which, depend on your 2013. For some, 2013 was a year of increase: larger wage, larger family, larger waist size (maybe that one should be on the next list).
For others, the opposite is true. Some lost a job, lost a loved one, lost a house to fire or battled a disease, etc. If you experienced the former, “Happy New Year” may be easy to shout out to the masses. However, if you experienced a loss, “Happy New Year” seems very trite.
My 2013 had many joys. My children experienced good health. My husband’s job went well. My family traveled and added many pages of good memories to our memory book.
However, we also experienced loss. My father-in-law’s dementia progressed to the point that he needed to move into a memory care facility. My youngest sister’s husband died suddenly, leaving her a widow at age 36. A friend’s younger sister continued to battle a rare form of cancer. Our neighbor lost their house to a kitchen fire. I definitely like talking about the joys more than loss.
As I anticipate another year, it would be easy to dwell on the past one. If I choose to think of the good, I would experience “happiness”. On the other hand, if I remember the sad events, my demeanor would easily change to downcast.
Is it possible to have a “Happy” New Year in the midst of sadness? No. But it IS possible to have a “Joyous” New Year in spite of loss, because joy isn’t dependent on circumstance.
In fact, the Bible tells us in the book of James to, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NASB)(emphasis mine). It doesn’t say, “Consider it all ‘happiness’.”
As we face more “perfecting” this year through various trials, remember: (for followers of Jesus)
1) God’s presence. God doesn’t always promise us a trouble-free life. He does, however, promise to live it with us. I love that we just celebrated Christmas. Jesus came as “Immanuel”, God WITH us.
2) God’s perfect character. God is good and doesn’t change. Even when we suffer, God still loves us.
3) God’s perfect plan. He plans to grow our faith. Sometimes this means He stretches us in ways that aren’t comfortable. He uses trials to show us Himself. And, HIS PLAN IS GOOD.
Does it mean it is easy to be joyous in hard situations? No. But, God makes it possible.
If you’ve never experienced God’s presence through a relationship with Jesus, you can hear more about the life-changing effect of the Gospel, by calling 1-800-Jesus-2020 or visit this website.
May 2014 be a year of spiritual growth: remembering His character, trusting His plan, and enjoying His presence. Have a “Joyous New Year”!